Thursday, March 29, 2012

For Example

In my last post, I mentioned (briefly) the fact that, thanks to pregnancy cravings and the such, I've fallen off the organic-slash-all-natural wagon. They are but brief interludes in an otherwise quite healthy diet. I mean, if I wanted to go nuts, I wouldn't have folks demanding I gain more weight. The baby's fine, I'm fine, and I'm not by any means starving myself; I've never been one to do that. Call it laziness or lack of willpower, but I'm just not prone to eating disorders.

Tonight's a prime example of one of my "whoopsies." My cravings tend to come from a very psychological place, rather than a physical urge for a particular food item...although, from time to time an irrational "Ooohhhh I need a *insert food item here* from *insert unhealthy food chain here*!" It happens, just not much. So, this evening I was considering what I'd like for dinner, since it would be a solo meal (sans hubby).

My thought process followed this stream: something cereal or a sandwich...ohhh, I've gotta use up the organic wheat bread before it goes bad...maybe tuna?...I've already had tuna this week, that's a no-no...ohhhh, egg salad, there's some good protein...what else MUST one have with an egg salad sandwich?...hmm...Jax with ketchup...but the sandwich will be organic and local (the eggs were from pastured chickens and sold at the farmers' market), so what does it hurt to have some Jax with 'em?...and organic ketchup, of course.

Yep, that's a moment inside my brain. Wacky, I know. So, that's how I came to be sitting here, awaiting my egg done-ness to hopefully enjoy a meal of egg salad (quite possibly on toasted bread, the way good ol' Grandma used to make it), Jax with ketchup, perhaps some chocolate milk (again, how Grandma served it)...and maybe some strawberry Chobani yogurt if dessert beckons. Let's forget the fact that when I stopped to pick up my single-serve package of Jax, I also grabbed some Twix bars. *ahem*

See? We're not all perfect. Sometimes it's about balance...other times, it's about simply sustaining oneself...still other times, it's about self-discipline. Of course, I picture myself being way stricter when the baby comes, but that's yet to be seen. :-) Have you had any awesomely simple organic/all-natural meals lately? Or indulged in something wonderful that was more than worth it?

Side note: The Jax with ketchup thing is not a pregnant whim, by the way. It's a totally real food category that only a few people (namely, those who attended my babysitter back in the day) understand fully. Let's just say that hotdog day (cut up, with ketchup) + a handful of Jax = accidental tastiness. Let's just say a hotdog craving isn't far behind, but I insist on waiting for this summer, after the little one arrives, and eating a nitrate-free, real beef version. See? I've still got standards. ;-) 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


As you know, we're all about making our best attempts at going green and live sustainably around here. Sometimes it works great and we're able to change our habits completely (hooray for cloth napkins!!!), and other times we fall off the wagon (boo when the "baby" craves McDonald's - yep, there's a correlation between McDonald's and non-sustainability - for 100 points, tell me what it is :-D). Heck, at times our CATS do way better than we do - after all, their lives are pretty much "eat, play, potty, sleep." Not TOO complicated. ;-)

So, of course, when it comes to the future Baby D (still no nickname, and the "D" isn't a hint as it its possible first name ;-)), it's not like we're suddenly going to throw caution to the wind and suddenly raise the kid in an eco-less life. We feel too responsible for the future of our planet, especially now that we'll be worrying about the future generations that will be using it. Plus, so much of living a "greener" lifestyle is also about maintaining one's own health - it's a win-win, as far as I'm concerned.

As far as how we're going about our green baby journey, it's probably easiest to simply break it down for ya:

- Cloth diapers. While I read an article last night stating that cloth diapers AREN'T more eco-friendly (from a magazine riddled with disposable diaper ads...hmmm, coincidence?), I'm still fighting the cloth diaper battle. I'm still trying to decide between a million different options, and am finally to the point of asking myself, "Do I just want to go simple and purchase all one kind and brand, damn the consequences? Or should I pick a few different styles and brands (as well as price points) to see what works best?" It's hard to determine how your kid will respond/react to each type, and I haven't heard 100% positives from ANY one given diaper. Of course not! Kids. All. Poop. Differently. I just hope I don't regret my final decision. Regardless, we're doin' this.
- Cloth wipes. Depending on how challenging cloth diapering is, I'm planning on using cloth (reusable) wipes for their tushies. If it was good enough for my mom to use on my bum... Oh, and if we're traveling or visiting someone's house (y'know, the grandparents, aunts/uncles, friends, etc), we've got eco-friendly wipes.
- Reusing Clothes. I've already got a bin of newborn-to-6 month, gender-neutral clothes, courtesy by incredibly generous sis, who also didn't find out the sex of her daughter prior to her being born last September. Anything else I get will be icing, as far as I'm concerned. Although, I'd be lying if I didn't say that I can't wait to find out (when he/she finally comes) whether I'll be shopping for the modern bright pinks and chartreuse greens for a girl or finding part-quirky/part-hippie/part-preppy (think sweater vest; like Daddy, like Son) for a boy.

- Decor. Okay, not only is it a huge cost savings, but finding thrifted items or repurposing old family treasures really adds massive personality to the nursery. We're nowhere close to done, of course, but some of the ways that we're saving AND "greening" up the place include using an antique rocker that my mother passed down to me (from my grandfather's house - man, does this thing have personality! And I've already have blankets/cushions to comfy it up), putting art in cheap (yet mostly wood!) frames from Goodwill, painting a hand-me-down dresser to use for storage and as a changing table, using toys/books that we grew up with (which serve multiple purposes), and I've even got something up my sleeve for a sheet that has an awesome antique-looking edge (which happened to cost $2...yes, I said $2). All this is stuff that wasn't created new just for our little space - although we'll, of course, have to buy a handful of new items.

Cute AND politically incorrect? Sign me up!


- Breastfeeding. I'm by no means a praying person, but "LORD, JESUS, PLEASE HEAR MY PLEA TO HAVE A RELATIVELY UNCHALLENGED TIME AT BREASTFEEDING THIS LITTLE ONE WHEN THE TIME COMES!!!!" *whew* Seriously, though, what's "greener" than breastfeeding? ;-) While we're at it, I've registered for the manual pump, although there wasn't really a green reason for it; if breastfeeding DOESN'T work out, for whatever reason, I don't want to try to resell a $200+ double-boob-electric-monster. Ain't happenin'. The eco-friendliness just happens to be perk. Oh, and when I pump (or if BF doesn't work out), we're hoping to get BPA-free GLASS bottles.
- Toiletries. We're trying to be "ASAP" - As Simple As Possible. We've done enough purging (still more to go) that simply adding to the chaos is silly. So, taking a cue from some blogger parents I've read, we're going pretty darn basic with toiletries. Here's what we picked up one day (because the prices were pretty good); I'd like to eventually keep it down to one item for washing (shampoo and wash in one), sunblock, and if we absolutely need it, lotion and baby powder; oh, and have the products as eco-friendly as possible.

- Toys. We're in love with Melissa & Doug toys (mostly wood) and other non-plastic options out there, but a lot of this depends on what we're gifted, too. (See our little choo-choo above that belonged to my hubby's family.)

I'm positive I'm forgetting some other eco-stuff we're doing, but we'll just blame that on pregnancy brain. Fun! If I wasn't already air-headed enough... (And, yes, I realize that "Mom Brain" or "Parent Brain" or whatever it's called hangs on for good. Oh, goody.)

There are some areas that I'm sure we could do better on, I'm sure, but it can sometimes be an uphill battle. We're incredibly blessed to have family members who are aching to help out - so if that means not purchasing a certain item secondhand, sobeit. And there are a few convenience items (a travel-sized swing or breast pump, for example) that I just want new. But, as with everything, we try to do our best, and I'm looking forward to keeping things relatively simple around here -- because things are sure to get complicated enough pretty quickly!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Window, Windows Everywhere...

We have a pretty small house, for the most part. For its size, it has a pretty decent number of windows. My mother speaks often of the amount of light brought into our kitchen (ie "the best-lit kitchen she's ever seen", and it's not due to our lighting situation). Sure, the bedrooms each have one or a set of two windows, but, again, they're tiny. The office only has one. But, our front room...our front room wins the window prize. It's got seven, and we're lucky enough to have double french doors that let the light into the rest of our first floor.

We've been replacing these windows, one or a few at a time, since we moved in. We've purchased them through my father-in-law, and he has kindly put them each in (with a few snags here and there - the surprises that come with "old home" ownership). The windows help with energy use, seem a heck of a lot safer, and can actually open and close nicely. Not to mention, they're pretty snazzy to look at. Oh, and cleaning is easier - although, let's be honest here, I never got outside on a ladder to clean the original windows or anything so reasonable.

We're down to the last handful of windows in the front room, AKA the sun room, AKA the three-season room (although I'm not sure if any of these terms is altogether accurate). We currently have sheers hanging from cheap-o white rods that were here when we bought the place. I'm actually surprised that ANYTHING not bolted down was left behind. The sheers are okay, but considering their lack of privacy (and the fact that they're the length of the longer), I'm pretty much over them.

Another little ditty that gets stuck in my head and drives me crazy? The fact that two of the rods will NOT stay TOGETHER. I'm using the proper hardware (although the previous owners rigged together some homemade contraption utilizing WOOD SCRAPS and, I believe, a button or some such nonsense for one of them), but the middle extender finds itself slipping out a lot. It could be due to the fact that the furry boys love looking out into the world beyond the windows, so I find myself frequently sliding the curtains - but this shouldn't be such a darn problem! Here's what I'm talkin' 'bout:

That's what I call "too short", young lady. You may not leave the house wearing that.

Broke-a$$, evidence number one. (Hi, Mr. Neighbor!)

Broke a$$ evidence number two. Much more obvious. And, in case you're uber-snoopy, that's a window waiting to be hung on the left, leisurely laying against the wall.

So, what do I want to do? I want a nice, fun visit (when the gas prices aren't so high...RIGHT!) to our about-an-hour-away Christmas Tree Shop. It's the best place (price-wise) I can find to stock up on window rods and hardware - and I'm planning on going way more heavy-duty than what we've currently got. I MAY also search for some clearance fabric to sew some slightly-less-sheer curtains, but I've gotta search around on Pinterest to see if there are any inspirational SHORTER ideas out there. One thing I'd definitely like to do, since I'll be "custom making" them, is to make the panels narrower. I want the privacy, but also want the boys to be able to sneak a peek at the birdies and squirrels frolicking on the front lawn - I think this'll help us achieve both goals (I don't have to slide an entire curtain over, exposing our leisurely living room selves, but they'll still be able to see out).

Oh, and a window post certainly wouldn't be complete without our champion window-watcher, Mr. Winston, utilizing his new favorite thing -- a slightly opened window with a screen (which freaks Dave out, but I only do it when I'm home and can keep an ear open for sneaky pushing).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sloppy Joes

It was obviously one of those nights that I clearly didn't consider my husband while planning dinner; he wouldn't be home for it, anyway. For some strange reason, the thought of Sloppy Joes had crossed my mind, and in one of those serendipitous moments (especially for a pregnant lady with a craving), we had all the ingredients I'd need. Since Dave wasn't home (and tends to dislike Sloppy Joes), it all seemed like the signs were too good to be true. Sloppy Joes, it is! Woo hoo!

I scoured the Internet looking for a homemade version, and came up with this variation (taken from a couple of other versions: namely, The Pioneer Woman and Rachael Ray)

Meg's Sloppy Joes

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. ground beef (most recipes call for 1 1/4 lbs, at least, but this is what I had on hand)
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. steak seasoning
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 onion, chopped/diced
1/2 red pepper (can be green), chopped/diced
1 clove garlic, chopped
Splash Worcestershire sauce
Splash red wine vinegar
1 can (approx. 15 oz) tomato sauce
A few squeezes of ketchup

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and start to brown. Add the sugar and spices, and continue to brown the meat, cooking for approximately 5 minutes. Next, add the onion, pepper, garlic, Wor. sauce, and vinegar. Allow these to simmer on medium for approx. 5 minutes more. Finally, add the tomato sauce and ketchup and continue to simmer until reduced.

Serve on toasted bun (can also add cheese to the top, but I couldn't bring myself to do it) with appropriate sides; I had sweet potato chips and pickles (what else? ;-D)...and I didn't actually toast the bun because I couldn't be bothered. 30 Rock was calling my name. Literally. Liz's ex-boyfriend, Dennis, was calling for his new wife, whose name just happens to be Megan. Add that to the fact that it was a St. Patrick's Day episode and there was no way I was toastin' any buns. No time, man, no time!

Just a heads-up that this ended up needing some definite simmering to become thick enough to eat, but it's all good. Also, just gotta share that my ingredients helped make this. Everything was all-natural (yes, even the Worcestershire sauce and vinegar), and some were organic. The roll I used was fresh-baked at a local marketplace and the beef was locally-raised and grass fed...not that you could necessarily taste it, but it matters. :-)

I must say that these will be a definite on the future "Mommy and Me" menu. Y'know that menu, don't you? For when Daddy's unavailable to join us for dinner...and Mommy wants to be the favorite. (Honestly, I'll need all the help I can get; I'm definitely going to be the disciplinarian in this household.) And I only wish I could have found a sufficient Adam Sandler video clip for this post, but I'm sure anyone in the know can hum along (Slop- Joe, Slop-Sloppy Joooooes...anyone?).

Thursday, March 15, 2012


The Internet rocks. To some, this may sound downright idiotic; to others, it's blasphemy. "Well, of course it rocks. Where have you been living the last 20ish years?!" says one side, while the other insists, "It's ruining the moral fiber of our country, and others." I totally understand both sides, I really do - I do worry that it, at times, has kept me from spending enough time with my husband or has been the master king of time suckage to my life. But, be that what it may, the Internet is still an awesome thing. Clearly. I'm blogging on it.

While I'm a user of Pinterest (I don't think I'd have the nursery art inspiration and other ideas that I'm currently housing without it!), I've been able to keep myself from getting obsessed. As it is, the blogs that I follow (and, believe me, it's not nearly as many as most folks...well, the folks who follow) provide me with enough eye candy and information to read on a daily basis. Oh, and if I miss a day or two, I'm set! It's like winning some strange jackpot.

Not that every aspect of the Internet is da bomb. I'm not a fan of Twitter (but I have one...which I rarely use...@megactsout, holla), and have a love/hate relationship that I'm trying to break off with Facebook (but it DOES help me know more about folks following my blog, and to keep up with possible cloth diaper deals, etc). And the fact that the Internet has absolutely deteriorated the use of general manners and decorum in conversation and treatment of others is disheartening. See, lots to hate.

But, what do I love? E-zines. There are some awesome e-zines out there that I'm getting into - and most are currently free. SERIOUSLY! (Why does that impress me so much?) Normal folks are putting information and eye candy out there for the whole world to see, mostly because they're uber passionate about the topic. It's a wonderful thing!

I do get regular ol' glossies, too, don't get me wrong. Thanks to a few REALLY good deals, I scored myself Real Simple (a mainstay that I've been reading since college...although it can be hit-or-miss), House Beautiful (which has actually been a disappointment, but dirt cheap and provides some eye candy) and Better Homes and Gardens. I also get a stack of used This Old House and Consumer Reports mags every time I visit my parents. (Dave gets some mags of his own, and we share The Writer). Oh, plus the Newsweek that I get free for donating to our local PBS station. And, yes, I recycle old copies. :-P 

But, there's something neat about e-zines. They're relatively eco-friendly (sure, you're using a computer, but that uses a heck of a lot less energy than the creation of the paper versions), generally shorter (so you can easily read it in one sitting), and there are often links to cool products or places on the web that follow up with the story.

My new favorite is
Kaia Magazine (and that's not just because I recently submitted an article for consideration). It's all about living realistically sustainably. The articles aren't overwhelming, expense-inducing or even lecturey (yes, I made that up) like lots of green living magazines seem to be - it's attainable. They've only released a couple of issues, but I hope they'll be around for the long haul.

I also enjoy The Lettered Cottage Magazine. Of course, I'm already a huge fan of Layla and Kevin's blog, but sometimes a magazine format gives you a case of the "oooOOOOooo"s. You know what I mean. It's when you see something in a glossy that looks wicked professional or pretty or gorgeous and you have to say "oooOOOOooo". Or, wait. Is that just me? Regardless, they rock.

And, lately, I just keep stumbling over new online magazines, mostly thanks to FB posts (sue me!) from other Kaia Magazine contributors/editors. I spent more time than I'd like to admit reading Green Child Magazine, for example. It's a great place to pick up ideas for raising kids in an eco-friendly setting. And, now that I'm "with child" and expanding exponentially, how can I resist? The recent issue even had a great review of various baby carriers. Sweet!

See what the Internet has to offer? I know, there are billions of other cool things out there, but currently I'm sticking with a few new e-zines. It's all my schedule can really handle, and I'm enjoying the process of learning new things (while not spending an arm and a leg on "regular" magazines).

Monday, March 12, 2012

Slapdash Sunday

Slapdash Sunday: A day when it's perfectly acceptable to write a random (ie "train of thought") blog post with little rhyme or reason...and, yes, I know it's Monday now. Here's a bit of what's on my mind today:

After having read blogs and articles, and heard stories and advice over the years, my mind has been filled to capacity with items to put on our baby registry/wish list. When it comes time to fine-tune the lists and add some of these particularly awesome ideas, my thoughts go blank. Pregnancy Brain strikes again!

Two out of three kitties have become highly interested in my snacking habits; namely, my hummus. We have very strange, very special little guys -- as if I didn't already know this. I'm hoping and wishing that they acclimate well to the new addition come July.

I've been writing a cloth diaper post for, say, a month or so that keeps hitting snags. My mind is all over the place. I could just go with one brand, or try out a million different techniques (including the good ol'-fashioned one our mama used on us). The issue is that no single brand gets 100% "hooray, this is THE best brand out there!!!" reviews because no two babies are alike. (Most get moderate to great reviews, but all of them have their "don't use this brand!!!" -type reviews.) You can't buy Baby's First Crystal Ball o' Poop to know whether they'll tend to have a million blowouts or be a champion, 3-diapers-a-day kid. You also can't foresee whether breast feeding will be an out-of-the-park home run (which would quite possibly dictate the type of poo you'll be dealing with). It's overwhelming. So, I've stepped away from it for a little while. My mind is once again leaning towards "simplest is best" (ie one type of diaper, one brand, that's IT). But, we'll see. I can tell that you simply can't WAIT for that almighty post to arrive, when I finally decide. ;-)

The nursery is coming along, but only in the sense that it's becoming less and less of a catch-all room. More on that this week.

It appears that spring has actually accompanied the daylight saving time change (for once, in our area). We had one of the mildest winters I remember having - which is great because there were very few slips on ice (there's something about falling whilst pregnant...scary), but it felt like we had a "non-season". Wasn't fall. Wasn't spring. Wasn't winter. 'Twas nothin'. My irrational, superstitious Irish side forecasts that the summer will be one hell of a scorcher (+ screaming newborn + 3 inevitably shedding kitties + 1 irritable mommy = misery?)...but my ever-rational hubby suggests that it will be as mild a summer as was this winter. Ya gotta love him for talking me off the ledge.

Another awesome thing about spring coming is that it makes me think of food. Autumn brings on thoughts of chili and stews and soups (which I hardly made much of this year), but spring is a reminder of life and growth. Life + food = VEGGIES! I've decided that we're going to utilize the two raised beds (plus one or two potted plants - we'll see) but plant a smaller variety of foods this summer so that I know that the foods we DO plant are foods that we truly enjoy and will look forward to harvesting. Rather than purchasing a CSA and trying to find a way to use the wonderful (yet new and varied) items while focusing on a newborn (thus costing us more $ than we can afford this year), we're considering signing up for our local Foodshed Club (at $25/year) to supplement some of our food needs. Of course, a combination of grocery shopping and farmers' markets along with the Foodshed should keep us well-fed. ;-) More on this later, I'm sure.  

We got a butt load done last Saturday, to the point where I was far more tired than at the end of any average workday. Those can be incredibly fulfilling days...or disappointing (come Monday, leaving one thinking, "Where did the weekend go? I'm exhausted!"). I'm hoping it's not the latter, but it does feel good to see a relatively clean house (the bits that I got cleaned!), a kazillion Goodwill bags, and a much emptier nursery.

This whole "growing a human being in your body" is pretty darn cool...albeit a tad strange and incredibly surreal at times. I've been feeling movement for awhile, but it's definitely become, well, at times more sporadic but more powerful. While Dave hasn't SEEN it happen yet, the whole belly just MOVES. It seems to be figuring out a schedule...but it hasn't shared it with me yet. There was a time when every night, upon laying down, it would start up (and would provide for a sweet moment when Daddy could make a connection by feeling it), but not s'much anymore. I only wish I could describe exactly what it feels like. At times a push. Others a tickling. Still others a brush (such as a hand or fist, knuckles and all, rubbing up against me). But, most of the time, it just makes me have to pee.

Yes, we're working on names. No definites yet. And, no, we won't be sharing them - not here on the blog, not with friends, not even with immediate family (with the exception of checking in with my sis about any "finalists" in the running - she paid the courtesy to me, simply because there are some family names we might have both wanted, so it's only fair to do the same. Plus, she's my best friend). It'll be a surprise for almost everyone - even us, until we meet the little one! :-) (Some folks may take that as a "neener neener", but it's just how we feel about it.) The same goes for belly touching. I'm just not cool with it unless you're the papa. (And I've got that narrowed down to 3 possibilities.)

I'm hoping people got that last joke...

The coming of spring definitely has a way of rejuvenating folks, doesn't it? The sunshine makes you happier, the warmth gives you hope (for some reason...again, it's not like we had a brutal winter, but when we DO get one, the idea that "nothing bad lasts forever" seems to bring with it some cheer), and the animals remind you of new life. That being said, it also tells me that we need to get our butts into gear on lots o' stuff. The warmer it gets, the more I'm reminded I need to do. And, yet, I don't feel overwhelmed. Not quite yet. (Perhaps never! This prenatal yoga's really helping!)

Happy Slapdash Sunday! Well, I hope you had a wonderful weekend, wherever you may be; enjoy your week ahead.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Aldi's is All That

Yes, I totally said "All That". And, yes, that was a Nickelodeon show back in the day. Sorry, I clearly didn't focus on coming up with an awesome title - I just had to share an awesome grocery shopping experience I had at Aldi's tonight. Unfortunately, it didn't involve any organic food items. It DID include all-natural food, though. Add that to the fact that we got all this for $36.11 and call me a happy lady:

Sorry for the shoddy cell phone picture. Here's an itemized rundown of what that small chunk o' change got us:

- Fresh asparagus
- Baby carrots
- Roma tomatoes
- Fresh salsa
- Strawberries
- Green Grapes
- Variety pack of onions (sweet, white, and red)
- Variety pack of peppers (yellow, red, and orange)
- Lemons
- Limes
- 3-pack of Romaine hearts
- Broccoli crowns
- Frozen peas
- Frozen edamame
- Frozen fine green beans
- Irish cheese (since I can't celebrate St. Patrick's Day the way I'd LIKE to this year ;-))
- Shredded parmesan cheese ($1.99 compared to Hannaford's $7 tiny wedge)
- Sweet potato chips
- Pita chips
- Croutons (in case you weren't aware of Dave's addiction to salad)
(And non-food related...)
- Baking soda (less for cooking, more for hair)
- ONE roll of paper towels (69 cents! We usually purchase an eco-friendly roll or two as needed from Hannaford, but we were out and I couldn't turn down that price)

While the meat at Aldi's is far from grass-fed or well-treated, I do like to look over the seafood sustainability. While they had some salmon that was wild caught, it happened to be caught near China...just didn't sound right. I was shocked to find that the made-from-minced-fish fish sticks actually had a sustainability guarantee AND listed exactly where the fish were raised, how they were caught, and WHAT the type of fish was. Too bad we're not big fish stick people around here; or, at least, my hubby isn't. It could be a possibility for Fridays with kiddies, though.

I was also surprised at how many items DIDN'T have high fructose corn syrup in them -- including breads (which are VERY hard to find at Hannaford). Unfortunately, all their yogurt options had some form of corn syrup (yuck?!), so we didn't go there.

The prices on the fruits and veggies I bought were CRAZY! The asparagus was a bit thin (which I see as "tender" rather than the woody, tree-like ones that are sometimes sold), but a pound cost $1.89. The baby carrots were $.89. A pack of numerous Roma tomatoes was $1.69. Strawberries (I believe 2 lbs!) for $1.89?! Grapes (another huge container) for even less?! Compared to our trips to Hannaford (which, admittedly, at least has organic options), it's nice to go for an occasional stock-up that doesn't leave you completely depressed -- financially AND emotionally.

Oh, and all the chippies that I got are all-natural (and usually include 3 ingredients). The salt is sea salt. See? More and more impressed by what Aldi's is doing to reach out to conscientious customers. Suh-weet!

Now, the goal is to NOT allow myself to waste all this good food. My biggest challenge, I think, is that I don't plan meals around the foods that I purchase, so gorgeous food goes to waste. It's a mortal sin, as far as I'm concerned, and makes me feel terrible when I have to throw anything out. Atop that, I feel worse when I know we've spent more (at the farmers' market or Hannaford) - which is totally worth it, knowing the importance of organic. But, the occasional budget-friendly trip to Aldi's definitely helps with the ol' grocery funds.

So, I'm off to figure out tonight's dinner and map out some other menus for the upcoming week or so. How do you eat healthy on a budget? Do tell!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

DGOTA: Closet

My most recent "Dude, Get On That Already" challenge may seem small, but small projects add up! And, honestly, it's HUGE in a small kinda way. Okay, that makes zero sense, but I've got a serious case of Pregnancy Brain, so it's a miracle that I can speak in complete sentences. ;-)

Anyhoo, I started this "project" a little while ago by taking a rather large haul of unused or unwanted goodies to Goodwill, including some purses and lots o' shoes. I went from two totes (which were both housed in "my" closet, now the nursery closet) down to one. A single tote housing all of my purses/handbags/shoes...given how little of a "girlie girl" I am, I'm surprised how much I'm impressed by that.

From here, it took me awhile to finally clear out the rest of the closet, but consider it DONE! If my hubby could reduce his space usage by one closet and one dresser (down to one of each), the least I could do is FINALLY get off my tuckus and shift (and edit) some stuff. Sure, I'm leaving a couple of large, important items (um...y' wedding dress) way in the back of the nursery closet, alongside the big ol' bin of accessories, but there will still be plenty of room for the baby's stuff.

Pay no attention to the scarves hanging on the closet door (and the messy bookshelf to the left).
Every amateur actress needs a feather boa, right? ;-)

 The "rest" of the closet...where my wedding dress and other sundries live.

Winston had to remind me that our "big" luggage also will be housed,
atop the bin that holds my accessories

And the closet's still not quite done! I know, "dude, get on that already"...I know. It's just lovely to have an empty space that we know will be filled with baby storage solutions and cute things. We already have a large board that we'll be painting white and retrofitting to create a shelf above the closet pole. Er, rod. Whatever that thing is. Either way, I already expect it to be a bit of a challenge, since we did the same in Dave's closet space and it. Was. A. Bear. I'm wishing for a pleasant surprise, especially now that the belly's getting in the way more and more everyday.

What other storage solutions are we thinking of for the baby? Other than the closet (which is LOTS of space, considering the size of the rest of the house!), we've got a couple of empty drawers from a previous DGOTA challenge, which is miraculous in our house -- or anyone's house, it seems!

'Tis a thing of beauty. This free space is mere feet away in our hallway, so it's quite convenient. A little closer by, I'm stocking up (or will be) on baskets and bins that will help organize on shelves and other surfaces. Some items don't have a job yet, but I've got a couple of possible ideas for them - such as a white, seriously-made-of-plastic-but-doesn't-look-it "basket" that will be ideal for laundry OR diapers (or a still TBD use).

I'm also already indebted to a dear friend who lives *swoon* near an Ikea who will be picking up some hanging shelves for us (aaaaand possibly one for the office...shhh, she doesn't know it yet ;-)), once I can determine exactly where they'll go and what size we'll need. Thanks to Pinterest and other ideas I've gleaned, I've got some...erm..."creative" ways to display and house some of the other goodies. Wait 'n see.

Oh, and one of the most important storage factors involves a free dresser that will be getting a low-VOC paint job and new jewelry (hardware) to play a very important, not-just-for-storage role as a changing table. Now, let's all hope it's an okay size for this job!

Then there's everyone's favorite: "sneaky" storage. You know the kind. We've got this all over the house - from the two ottomans in our living room to the old "treasure chest" in our front room. In this case, I've got a mini-, faux leather ottoman ($7.49?! Sign me up!) and will be looking for a lidded basket or two (possibly the "soft" kind), especially for toys 'n blankets. Oh, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a possible toy chest that my hubby's rather fond of. I only wish I could paint it, but it's got that "rustic" (read: orange wood that would look quite at home in a family camp) vibe that he seems to like going on. Hmm. Maybe that look will come back someday. One can only hope.

So, there's obviously lots left to do in this space. But, like I said, every little project brings us closer to having a nursery where, once, there was a guest room-slash-dressing room. Purdy exciting! Now, on to that shelf!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Vinegar Rinses and Baking Soda Scrubs

I have officially had my first attempt at trying a more eco-friendly (and, coincidentally, cheaper) shampoo alternative, and thought I'd share my experiences. Y'know. Just in case anyone else is thinking of making a change.

Strangely enough, earlier in the day I used vinegar and baking soda to unclog a drain AND do some nice, non-asphyxiating cleaning in the bathroom, so it just made sense to leave the products in the bathroom for my impending shower. What could it hurt?

I read up on some methods and chose the one I'd try. I was slightly fearful for getting stinging vinegar in my eyes, and that I'd blatantly smell like a salad for days (perhaps to the delight of my salad-lovin' hubby). But, my thoughts kept returning to Shirley Temple -- if she could endure her daily vinegar rinses (as a child, of course), I could, too. Gotta keep those curls perfect! ;-) (Just kidding, I don't have curls.)

So, I diluted some vinegar and water in a stainless steel cup we had lying around the bathroom (I'd say about a 6:1 ratio, water to vinegar -- but this depends on the length of your hair and other factors, like tendency toward oiliness) and let it sit alongside the box of baking soda. After wetting down my hair, I poured the solution (about 2/3 of it) on my head, in sections, from my scalp to the tips. The point of this first soaking is to bring the oil and grime to the surface of the hair - so it's good to leave it on for at least two minutes. You can do the rest of your showerly bidness in the meantime.

I'm not sure if I did it properly, but I rinsed my hair in the shower before doing this next step - I wasn't sure I wanted that "fuzzy" reaction with the baking soda happening on my scalp. So, after the rinse, I took a small handful (a couple of tablespoons, maybe) of the baking soda, dropped in a bit of water to make a thick paste, then rubbed it pretty aggressively into my scalp and hair. I believe I only had to do two handfuls, then I just worked the abrasive action of the baking soda until I felt the job was done.

But, of course, this isn't the end. I then water-rinsed - again, not sure if I should've done this or just added the last vinegar rinse, but I'm a rebel - before doing one final vinegar rinse with the leftover vinegar/water dilution. A final rinse of water, and I was done.

It may SEEM like it took forever, but it really didn't waste as much water as you're thinking -- it was pretty quick, even with the 2-minute "soak" (which, again, left me with time to clean, um, the rest of me). And, while I think I should've rinsed more at the end, I didn't necessarily notice a vinegar odor...not a strong one, at least. I'll pay better attention to my rinsing in the future, but I could only faintly smell it when I shoved a handful of hair from my ponytail up to my nose.

I'll give a more in-depth review of this technique after I've been doing it for a week or two, but, in all honesty, my hair was SO soft (after blow-drying with zero product) and easy to comb through after just one shower. I don't notice any greasiness the day after, but also very little dryness. The chemicals and suds in normal shampoo (even lots of the "eco-friendly" versions out there) strip our hair of the oils that it needs. I'm excited to see whether this continues to suffice for me (I've even heard that some folks are able to wash their hair less than once daily after trying this method!).

But, seriously, even if I try this technique a few times a week, it'll cut back on chemicals a) going onto my body...yuck... and b) joining the environment. I've got some shampoo to use up, so I'm up in the air about finishing it (or seeing if a family member or friend would use it).

Oh, and no, I'm not forcing Dave to try this. Although, I told him to watch out for the jug of vinegar in the bathroom and I believe he made a joke about using it as which I replied, "I did!!!" Boy, was he surprised. I guess he must not have smelled it coming from my head! ;-)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Green Goals

Why, yes. I do want a onesie like this one. Why do you ask? ;-)
Winter's the season for hibernation, hunkerin' down, inactivity and coziness. It's nice to have a time devoted specifically to, well, in essence laziness - believe me, I'm a huge fan, especially while the little chicken dinner roasts away inside me.

But I'm also reminded of how nature utilizes the season. While it seems like nothing much is happening beyond winter weather patterns (which we've had absolutely minimal of this year!), the frozen ground holds within it lots of activity. If not for this "rest period", the organic material wouldn't be preparing itself for spring planting, animals wouldn't survive properly until spring, and the whole system would be outta whack.

It makes me feel remiss, in the midst of all that nature's doing to prepare for the next season, that I'm not doing my part for nature as much as I have in the past. While I've discussed "going green" quite a bit around my slice of the world wide web, I feel that I've dropped the ball a bit lately. An easy excuse is "I'm distracted by planning for the baby" -- but, seriously, what better excuse to try to implement more "greenery" into our lives than the future generations?!

That being said, I shouldn't be TOO harsh. I mean, there certainly are lots of areas of our lives that we've already changed - to the point where they're second-nature and we've forgotten we've even MADE the changes.

Firstly, almost all of the products that we use (be them cleaning or otherwise) are "eco-friendly". While I'd like to do more (by way of finding shampoo alternatives and making our own laundry detergent), we're still doing more than a lot of people. There's always room for improvement.

We use cloth napkins at every meal, and try to use dish towels and rags as much as possible (although we have to keep minimal tissues and paper towels around due to colds and gross cat ears that need cleaning); again, an area in which we can continue to improve.

We like to use glass-and-silicon reusable containers for our work lunches, and recyclable/recycled double-plastic bags when needed (I wish I wasn't so dependent upon these!). Dave reuses any accidental plastic grocery bags (y'know, the ones you get when you don't have a reusable bag on hand) to carry lunches, and I use a cloth lunch bag for mine. Seriously, it's literally a brown bag. So plain and somehow cute at the same time!

Then there are those "Oh, yeah, I forgot about that..." eco-friendliness we've been imparting for awhile. When we moved into our house, Dave went on an energy-saving whirlwind through the house - CFLs in any and every light fixture (we've only had to replace one; that's not bad!), tiny foam insulators for the outlets (most of which have also been switched out), among other little changes. And, lest we forget the low-flow toilet and shower head, as well as the brand new boiler and heating unit (both with excellent Energy Star ratings) that my stepdad put in before we even knew what hit us.

There's always room for improvement, though, so I'd like to share some thoughts on ways that our family can get on-track to better help both our interior and exterior environments. I'd like to call this list (apparently I'm all about lists, who knew? My mom would be so would my husband), with lots of positive energy and less guilt in mind:

The Greening Our Family List
("Dun dun duuuuun" - Ooohhh, impressive!)

- Getting back into the ever-important composting. We've got a bin full of the stuff to use for planting in the spring, but got off-track as far as the "adding to it" aspect of composting (the upstate NY winter also helped throw us). I also never found the time/money to get into vermicomposting, unfortunately, so I believe the focus will be the much simpler, hopefully manageable composting. This is an area that I relish teaching to our kids. Oh! And we were lucky enough to get gifted a large composting bin that should be interesting to learn how to use!!

- Speaking of garbage, I'd like to cut back on how much garbage actually gets put out. We do generally have LOTS of recycling, and usually put a full garbage bag out to the curb every other week. Hopefully, by hitting the "restart" button on composting, we'll be able to cut this down to *fingers crossed* once a month. And, while I don't think we'll ever be as awesome as the Zero Waste family, it would be nice to cut back on how much we recycle, too. (One step at the time, lady, one step at a time.)

- Aaaaand also speaking of spring planting, there has been some conversation in our household as to whether or not we should try out a CSA this year or continue with our two (yep, we build another one last year!) raised veggie beds. I found that we had a less successful year in 2011, mostly because I think that we didn't plan enough and planted far too much -- it was simply too much to keep up with. However, I'm not sure I'll have the time to put into "finding new recipes" to fit in with a regular CSA, so find that it may be a waste of money. So, I'm currently leaning towards utilizing our beds (if ya got 'em, use 'em!) but spacing things out and ONLY growing what I KNOW we'll use. I know, I'll be in my third trimester when it's time to plant, and have a newborn when it's time to tend and harvest, but I do feel that this will be tons easier if we simplify, simplify, simplify. Plus, I've got a loving husband to help (who also happens to LOVE the fact that "this came from our own garden!!!", especially when salads are involved).

- I've had a difficult time finding "green" toiletry products that are actually green or that do a decent job. I find my hair getting dried out or weird-feeling (sorry, I can't find a better way to describe it than that!), then feel that I need to use this product until it's gone as not to waste it. So, I thought that I'd try the ever-popular, most-eco-friendly method out there. Here's a hint: It involves baking soda and vinegar (and, no, I'm not making a volcano on my head - although, weren't those fun when we were kids?!). I've pretty much given it away, but I'm sure I'll report back on my success/failure rate.

- In my mind, green = simplification. We don't NEED so much STUFF, and we're doing a pretty good job of trying to purge (and send on our unwanteds to the thrift shop, or put them aside for our quasi-annual garage sale). The scary thing for me is that all-too-true saying "with baby, comes stuff." I'm not blaming the baby, and I totally understand the need that people seem to feel about buying cute things (regardless of a) the necessity or b) the size of said item) - but I don't agree with it. If we need it, it'll be on our registry. If you think we need it, check with us first. Odds are, we don't. (I hate to sound so mean or ungrateful, but we're working VERY hard to purge, purge, purge, so if we end up getting even MORE "CRAP" to purge, we'll be a couple of very grumpy new parents.)

THAT being said (yes, a new paragraph within a bulleted list - shocking!), we've already started this baby off as green as we can (without purchasing expensive green furniture...that'd be easy to do). We've borrowed newborn through 6-month neutral clothes from my sister. I'm researching what cloth diapers to purchase. We're trying to only buy/ask for eco-friendly lotions and soaps. I'm hoping to breast feed and, eventually, make baby food (or try baby-led weaning) which may cut back on the need for a kazillion bottles, formula and purified water containers, baby food jars etc. I'm also uber-excited about the prospect of receiving certain goodies, such as a space saver high chair (it attaches to a normal dining table rather than taking up lots of extra square footage) and a portable swing (which will not only be portable, but take up way less space, too - and is foldable for when it's not being used). These, I foresee, will be worth their weight in gold, along with perhaps some natural baskets (we'll look for these on our own, that doesn't need to be on a registry) to help us maintain the clutter.  

So, that's it for my immediate green list. While I'd like to say that every little thing we'll be doing around the house will involve a step closer to a habitual green lifestyle, I realize that there are some simply un-green things that we're working on. For example, Drylok-ing the basement isn't the best for our internal environment (stinky!!!), plus painting all the walls and floor down there will be costly if we use only low-VOC paint. Since we're not planning on staying here forevah-evah, the cost is simply too much to go too gung-ho with our greenification efforts. We'll do our best (especially when it comes to, say, painting the baby's furniture), but it's not like we'll be putting in a brown water system or solar panels. We'd just like to continue fixing the place up enough to make it worth selling, and purdy enough to look at. :-)

So, how about y'all? Any green efforts going on in your little piece of the world? Or green efforts that you didn't even realize you were taking part in? Do tell! 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Pin Theft

As many women using the world wide web, I likes me some Pinterest. (Sorry, guys - I have yet to see a single non-chick using it. Feel free to Friend me if you're a fan of it, too!) I'm not addicted to it, but I can see how a person could easily jump into that territory. There's just so much inspirational material out there on the web; how could we NOT love a tool that helps us "save" ideas for later and share with friends?!

The funny thing is that part of my job is learning and educating about the responsible use of information - ie plagiarism, intellectual property, etc. Every time I pin something, I think about where it's coming from, if the individual who originally posted it to the internet CARES that it may get pinned (and the original source in the process) dozens of times, and whether it's legal. But, I do it, anyway.

I know that a lot of the stuff on Pinterest is actually originally shared by bloggers, who love knowing that people may try their idea (a craft, recipe, DIY project, etc) or find inspiration to do their own thing. Heck, lots of blogs ENCOURAGE us to pin their ideas. So, that's what I'm telling myself every time I decide to repin for my own purposes. However, the items that I'm sharing here today are from the original sites (not the reproductions that I've been inspired to create)...just to be clear. Now, for the fun, hee hee.

For me, Pinterest has been valuable for planning my nursery. Talk about inspiration! Beyond the fact that I have actual proof that a nursery can be blue and NOT shout "It's a Boy!" loudly (remember, we're not finding out the sex...and we're stickin' to it ;-)), there are a kazillion ideas for nursery art. It's to the point where Dave jokingly says that we'll run out of room...and it just occurred to me that I should just keep pinning since, one day, we might just have a playroom (in a different house). ;-) Mwahahaha, he's not safe!

So, here are some of my favorite nursery pins (the images are linked to their original sources)...

While there's a tad more green to the wall color, this gave me some great inspiration for our room. Sure, there's lots about it that we won't be doing; we've got a dark wood antique rocker to use, our floors ain't that purdy (we've got a large neutral rug that I'd like to layer a couple of throw rugs with), and we'll have a lot more color. But, I LOVE the combination of blue and yellow, plus the embroidery hoop-with-patterned-fabric wall art.

While the orange isn't a definite, the brightness and combination of fun color are definitely an inspiration for our space. I also love the mix of old and modern. By the way, I'd like to complete about 90% of the nursery, then if it's a boy throw in some orange accents and if it's a girl use some deep plum...but, hey, I could always throw both in. What other room could you do that without being put into a padded facility?
I know, this is an unimpressive picture, but the link provides you with some DIY crib skirt ideas. I've already purchased a $2 sheet that seems to be an antique (but who minds cutting an antique sheet when it cost $2?!) which will hopefully work for this project. It'll add some of the classic, ruffly baby softness to the space.

This is another unimpressive picture, but it's close to an accent color I'd like to use, specifically to paint a free dresser we've got (luckily, it's not as big as this...although I'm starting to wonder whether it'll be big ENOUGH, eep!) that will double as a changing table.

 Aaaaand here's the art! Yes, it's the alphabet twice...see anything else? ;-)
I've recreated this using a blue instead of gray and a neat stamped font.

Here's another theft on my part. My version uses the same colors, but a different font and a small, horizontal layout. My mother sang this to me as a child, so I HAD to have it in the room somehow.

How cheeky is this?!
I used the inspiration from this piece, but it looks quite different - with a green background and another cool stamped font. I LOVE this one.

 The inspiration from this nursery was the idea of some of the accessories, but more importantly the large glass jar used as storage. See the jar at upper left housing the old alphabet blocks? Why I think that's neat, I have no idea. I just do.

So, that's just a handful of nursery inspiration I found on Pinterest. Whatchya think? Disjointed and hard to picture? Or neat ideas that'll create a fun, creative space? Feel free to share an opinion.

Six Down...

I started a post about Davy Jones, but found myself getting far too bummed-out. You'll see why (other than, of course, the terrible, surprising loss of a fun, talented man) when I finally am "able" to post it.

So, I thought I'd just share the few accomplishments from my "30 Before 30" list. A few of the items listed, I think, will end up getting edited a bit or switched out for something altogether awesomer, but for the most part I have a hard time not sticking to a list. It's like breaking a promise. Publicly. Shameful! And, yes, I just kept right on goin', assuming that we'd all just pretend that "awesomer" is, indeed, a real word.

Try a yoga class.
Woohoo! This is the most successful (not to mention fulfilling) achievement off the list so far. See why here.
2. Start adding to savings.
3. Organize the office. (But it's, admittedly, not done. D'oh.)
4. Go for a walk. (You'd be surprised at how hard this is!)
5. Go antiquing.
6. Get some more Etsy goodies posted.
7. Organize the ol' blog.
8. Get rid of 25% more of my wardrobe.
9. Organize/clean out my laptop (pictures & iTunes -- need room for the baby's music, after all).
10. Do some major curb appeal work (spray paint the shutters, kill the ivy , paint the side door, paint the "porch", hang the numbers, plant some pretties)
11. Switch the living room from red accents to... I'd say part-way done. :-)
12. At least organize the craziness that is The Basement Monster.
13. Find someone to take the bed in order to change "guest room" into "nursery." It sounds like we've achieved this! *crosses fingers* Now, to actually get the deed done!
14. Get a hairstyle.
15. Make some paper cranes (or other awesome origami art). (Nope, but I've found some art ideas to "recreate" - e.g. steal - to use in the nursery. Back to Pinterest I go!)
16. Do some painting...not in the home improvement way.
17. REDO. THE. BATHROOM. (And I MEAN it!) (I'm workin' on it!)
18. Learn how to use a plain ol' digital camera in the best way possible.
19. Try to post more original pictures on the blog. Haven't been posting much, but I'd say I've had 50% more original pics. It's a work in progress. :-)
20. Gain weight, but not too much. (Seriously, I haven't gained a pound yet, even though my stomach's gotten a bit bigger. How is that possible?!) Okay, I've finally gained a tad - maybe upwards of 5 pounds. I'm eating healthily and generally not over-doing it, and the baby seems happy enough. We'll see where we go with this one.
21. Make some DIY soap -- be it hand soap or laundry soap.
22. Go through all my dust-collecting books and donate/sell what I'll never read/didn't like.
23. Go some place new with the hubs. (Does a new restaurant, along with some great friends, count?)
24. Plan a smaller, but manageable garden. (Planting will have to occur well after May 1st. Unless we continue to have a #cancelwinter.)
25. Pick some baby names that we both can live with. (It'd be nice if we both LOVED them, but live with is the current goal.) Working on it!
26. Set up Amazon Affiliate.
27. Take a road trip. I foresee this happening in the next month or so...
28. Find enough room to actually be able to have every piece of my wardrobe put away simultaneously. Then follow through. We're definitely "getting there" on this one...
29. Reupholster the wine chair and slipcover/paint the ottoman.
30. Pick up the house once a week. (Yes, once. It doesn't look horrible the rest of the week if I do it this way. I know myself; once a day isn't gonna happen.)

Some of my leftover "to do"s are fun, and I look forward to diving in when the energy strikes me. Admittedly, some of the others are makin' me feel "blah." But, it's all good! Like I mentioned above, I might just have to do me some editing. After all, if it's all based in what's ultimately a birthday celebration, some amendments slightly one way or the other won't hurt anybody. I hope. :-)